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And the 2018 SA Bike of the Year of the year is...

2018-10-26 11:05

Dries van der Walt

Bike awards finalists

Image: Donovan Fourie

The Ducati Panigale V4 was awarded the 2018 Pirelli SA Bike of the Year title at a function in Sandton, Joburg on 25 October.

The two runners-up were the Triumph 765 Street Triple and the Kawasaki Ninja 400. With the entire range of engine sizes were represented on the podium, this is an indication that the process doesn’t favour bigger or faster bikes.

This was the sixth award since the inception of the competition in 2013, and the fifth on which Wheels24 was represented on the panel of judges.

As in the past, choosing this year’s Bike of the Year was no easy task, with the 12 finalists, each in its own right, having had a fair shot at the coveted title. But there can be only one, and it was up to the judges, drawn from the ranks of motorcycle publications, to decide which one would walk away with top honours.

Bike awards finalists

        Image: Donovan Fourie.

Bike awards finalists
                                                                                      Image: Donovan Fourie.

For the second year running, testing took place at Gerotek’s excellent vehicle testing facility west of Pretoria, which gave us the opportunity to test the bikes to our hearts’ content without having to worry about traffic, pedestrians and the myriad of other dangers of public roads.

The difficulty of making the choice was compounded by the fact that the finalists represented a balanced mix of bike categories, with two sport bikes, two adventure tourers, four nakeds, two full-dress tourers, and two sub-500cm³ machines.

There were a number of pleasant surprises among the 12 finalists. Kawasaki’s little Ninja 400 turned out to be surprising fun on the track, opening the door to track riding for novice riders.

Honda’s slimmed-down Gold Wing was no less impressive, especially through the early-morning rush hour traffic on the way to Gerotek – I would never have thought I would be able to lane-split on a full-dress tourer.

Perhaps less surprising, but no less pleasant, was the Kawasaki H2 SX. Like its single-seat sibling, the SX is remarkably accessible for such a powerful machine.

Balancing the performance scale was the Panigale V4, which offers phenomenal performance and handling, but is strictly for advanced students.

Two bikes that were very similar both in performance and general fun factor were the Triumph Street Triple 765 and the Ducati Duke 790.

Both turned out to be tremendous fun on the track and while I felt that I lapped faster with the Duke, in the end the Street Triple pipped it in my mind with its all-round competence. Among the finalists, the Triumph was the bike on which I felt I would most likely spend my own money.

The two adventure tourers, Ducati’s Multistrada 1260 and the Triumph Tiger 1200, both impressed – the Ducati with its lively performance and the Triumph with its comfort that promises miles of fatigue-free riding.

Once again it was hard to choose between these two, but in the end my vote went to the Triumph as the one that spoke to my soul. 

The Pirelli Bike of the Year Award almost never fails to create controversy, and it will likely be the case again this year – South African bikers seem to be extremely loyal to their favourite brand.

Bike awards finalists
                                                                                                    Image: Donovan Fourie.

But the controversy is not something that the organisers shy away from – it keeps people talking about motorcycling, and the enthusiasm shows that our industry is far from dead.

And that means that while the Panigale V4 may have ridden off into the sunset with the award, the real winner of the competition was motorcycling as a whole.


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